Articles Comments

Dickinson to Durban » Climate Change, Environmental Politics » The hidden discussion – Technology Transfer: Is it necessary?

The hidden discussion – Technology Transfer: Is it necessary?

By Emily Bowie ’14

Article 4, paragraph 5 under the Convention states that:

“The developed country Parties and other developed Parties included in Annex II shall take all practicable steps to promote, facilitate and finance, as appropriate, the transfer of, or access to, environmentally sound technologies and know-how to other Parties, particularly developing country Parties, to enable them to implement the provisions of the Convention.”

At the 7th Conference of the Parties in 2001 a framework for this provision was constructed in the Marrakesh Accords, an expert group on technology transfer was nominated, and the need for financial support was addressed. A BusinessDay article written a few days ago highlights the fact that “transfer discussions are taking place behind closed doors” these two weeks in Durban. In fact, until I conducted research after an interview I had no idea technology transfer was being discussed at all. Last year in Cancun the Technology Executive Committee was established at the policy arm of the UN’s technology Mechanism. Here in Durban they are discussing whether or not the Committee should “provide strategic guidance” to the UN’s Climate Technology Centre (CTC). Hopes for the next 24 hours are that a structure, or architecture, for the Technology Mechanism is created and that a framework for the CTC is drawn up and evaluated.

The idea of North (developed countries) to South (developing countries) technology transfer is attractive because generally welfare gains by the South in this structure far outweigh the welfare losses of the North. However, after an interview I had this morning with Isaac Kabongo of Climate Action Network Uganda I learned that this whole process may not be the best way to go about providing green technology for developing countries. Kabongo stated that in fact “North to South technology transfer is very complicated, in many cases very unrealistic.” He explained to me that there is an issue in getting access; developed countries have “very well streamlined legal system(s) in protecting technologies” because technologies are developed by the private sector and not the government, making it difficult for governments to quickly and easily distribute them. He also illustrated that there is an issue in implementation; the South does not possess the same skills to operate and maintain these technologies as the North does, making implementing technologies costly.

Kabongo, instead, called for an increase in South to South technology transfer. Barriers of ownership, patents and intellectual rights are significantly decrease when this happens and according to Kabongo, “Technology transfer from South to South is more viable [because] we are living in more or less the same challenges… so technologies that can be used in the area are very much confronting the same challenges… most of them are appropriate, cost effective… and they do not require high levels of skills to operate.”

So I wonder if it would have been more beneficial at this COP and may be more beneficial for future COPs to focus on increasing the capacity of countries in the South to develop their own technologies. Once countries in the South create their own technologies it will be much easier and cost effective to distribute and share them at a South to South level rather than involving the complications attached to integrating the North.

Written by

Filed under: Climate Change, Environmental Politics · Tags: , , , , , ,

One Response to "The hidden discussion – Technology Transfer: Is it necessary?"

  1. Esther Babson says:

    Your post was really interesting Emily. The difficulty of north to south technology transfer isn’t something I would ever have thought of but it makes complete sense. At the same time it makes me wonder where in the south the technology would come from initially? Hopefully in the future we’ll see a country in the south start to step up!

Leave a Reply